What are the top public visual effects schools in the U.S. for 2022?

Top 10 Public Visual Effects (VFX) Schools in the U.S. - 2022 College Rankings
1University of Texas at AustinTexas
2Texas A&M UniversityTexas
3University of California, Los AngelesCalifornia
4University of UtahUtah
5Florida State UniversityFlorida
6Purdue UniversityIndiana
7University of Central FloridaFlorida
8Georgia Institute of TechnologyGeorgia
9University of FloridaFlorida
10University of Colorado, DenverColorado

Our 2022 rankings of the Top 10 public visual effect schools in the U.S. For an explanation of ranking criteria, click here.

1. University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas
University of Texas at Austin

University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin) houses the Moody College of Communication, home of the Department of Radio-Television-Film (RTF), which has several pathways to study visual effects (VFX). For each pathway, students have access to a variety of courses that highlight visual and special effects. Examples include VFX & Motion Graphics; VFX for Storytelling; Digital Media Production, where students can choose an area of interest such as compositing and visual effects, animation and simulation, or CGI and interactive game design; and CGI for Film and Games, where students will study simulating effects and lighting and virtual cinematography.

All UT Austin RTF students also have access to the Digital Media Production Lab (DML), which features Adobe Creative Cloud Suite 2022, Autodesk Maya and Mudbox, Blackmagic Davinci Resolve, and other VFX tools; dedicated work spaces; five surround sound dubstages; and a 70 x 20 green screen. RTF students can participate in programs and events hosted by the Center for Entertainment and Media Industries (CEMI), and they have access to Wofford Denius UTLA Center for Entertainment & Media Studies, which provides internship opportunities at studios across Los Angeles.

Specific program options for students interested in VFX include the RTF BA, RTF Minor, and the MFA in Film & Media Production—all housed in Moody College of Communication. VFX courses are also accessible to students in the Arts and Entertainment Technologies BS Program (AET BS), housed in the College of Fine Arts’ School of Design and Creative Technologies’ Department of AET, and the University of Texas Game Development and Design Program, which is a partnership between the Department of AET, the Department of Computer Science (CS), and the RTF Department. This program leads to a BS.

Recent graduates of the Film and Entertainment Programs at UT Austin have been hired at some of the world’s top studios and production companies. Examples include Fox Searchlight, Amazon Studios, Walt Disney Studios, Sony Pictures Classics, Shondaland, Paramount Pictures, DreamWorks Animation, The Hollywood Reporter, BuzzFeed News, Lionsgate, iTunes, and BioWare.

University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin) is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). Founded in 1883, the school opened with one building, eight professors, one proctor, and 221 students. Today, UT Austin is home to around 52,000 students served by a teaching faculty of 3,133. The University of Texas at Austin offers more than 500 degree programs and fields of study housed in 18 colleges and schools.

2. Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas
Texas A&M University

Texas A&M University (TAMU) houses the Department of Visualization, which has BS, MS, and MFA options in Visualization. The MFA degree is just one of a few programs of its kind in the U.S. and possibly the only one in the State of Texas.

Established in 1989 the TAMU Visualization Program is cross-disciplinary, allowing students to explore interaction, art, design, visualization, and computer graphics. Students at all levels may focus in any area of specialization through electives. Course examples for technical artists looking to develop skills in visual effects include Visualization Techniques, Digital Rendering, Visual Studies Studios, Computing for Visualization, Digital Compositing, Principles of Design, Virtual Reality, Creating Digital Environments, Multimedia Design and Development, Digital Characters: Art, Technology, Uses and Meaning, Interaction Design, and Interactive Virtual Environments.

TAMU Visualization students have opportunities to participate in the annual career fair and the semester away program in Italy, Germany, and other countries. Internship opportunities are also available at all levels. Supervised internships span 15 weeks and 600 hours. Students will earn six credit hours. Graduate internships are worth eight credits. TAMU Visualization students have interned at a variety of animation, game, and graphic design studios. 

Texas A&M University Visualization graduates are often hired for positions at major studios. Examples include Walt Disney Animation Studios, Reel FX, Pixar, DreamWorks Animation, and Industrial Light & Magic (ILM).

Texas A&M University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). With more than 73,000 students, TAMU is one of the nation’s largest universities by enrollment. Established in 1876, Texas A&M is also the state’s first public institution of higher learning. TAMU offers more than 400 degree programs housed in 17 colleges and schools.

3. University of California Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California
University of California Los Angeles

The School of Theater, Flim & Television at University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) houses the Department of Film, Television and Digital Media (FTVDM), which has an undergraduate Film Program that features visual (VFX) and special effects coursework. Leading to a BA, the program covers three distinct areas: Production (film, television, digital, experimental, and animation); Film and Television craft (writing, directing, photography, sound recording, and editing); and Cinema and Media Studies (history, theory, and aesthetics). Students interested in VFX may concentrate on editing and postproduction during their senior year.

Courses options for VFX students include Visual Effects, Digital Cinematography, Animation Fundamentals, Design and Experimental Digital Film Production, Motion Picture Lighting, Introduction to Digital Effects, Postproduction Sound Design, Seminar: Film Structure, Experimental Filmmaking, Advanced Film Editing, Moving Digital Image, Digital Audio Postproduction, Experimental Video Workshop, Advanced Film Editing: Postproduction Pathways, Film and Television Production Laboratory, Advanced Computer Animation, Computer Animation in Film and Video, Advanced Interactive  Animation, and Digital Revolution.

The School of Theater, Film & Television at UCLA also has more than a dozen initiatives including Special Effects for Film and Television, Interactive Television, Computer Animation and Video Gaming, Computer Assisted Theater Design, and the Development of Web-Based Media Arts, to name a few. Students in the FTVDM Film BA Program at UCLA also have access to the state-of-the-art Walter Lantz Digital Animation Studio and other production studios.

UCLA FTVDM graduates have been hired at major studios such as Walt Disney Imagineering, Nickelodeon, Pixar, and DreamWorks, among others. 

University of California Los Angeles is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges – Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC). Established in 1919, UCLA serves 45,900 students enrolled in more than 250 programs across 12 professional schools and UCLA College of Letters & Science (UCLA College or “The College”).

4. University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah
University of Utah

University of Utah (The U) has several paths to study visual or special effects. Housed in the College of Fine Arts is the Department of Film and Media Arts, which has a Film & Media Arts Program that allows students to tailor the degree across multiple areas of interest. Students in the BA Program may also choose an Emphasis in Film Production or Animation.

Course examples for the program include Digital Effects and Compositing for the Screen, Digital Visual Effects, Motion Capture, 3D Character Production, Interactive Machinima, Digital Cinematography, Media Arts Production, Directing, Programming,  Film Editing, Sound for Film and Digital Media, Film Production, Directing, Storyboarding/Visual Storytelling, and 3D Character Animation.

Graduates of the Film Programs at University of Utah Department of Film and Media Arts are prepared for careers such as Visual Effects Artist, Visual Effects Animator, Film Editor, VFX Editor, Production Manager (VFX), Computer Animator, Digital Filmmaker, and Production Coordinator (VFX), among others.

University of Utah has an Entertainment Arts & Engineering (EAE) Program that was formed over a decade ago by faculty in the School of Computing and the Division of Film Studies (now the Department of Film & Media Arts). Several programs provide the opportunity to study VFX or special effects. Options include the BS in Computer Science with an EAE Emphasis and a Master of EAE (MEAE).

The EAE BS includes coursework in computer-generated special effects, 3D animation, visual perception, graphics, and game development. The MEAE has a Technical Arts Track, which allows students to Specialize in VFX. Through electives. students in both programs can take additional courses related to VFX or special effects.

Graduates of the EAE Programs at University of Utah are prepared for careers such as VFX Artist, Animation VFX Artist, VFX Editor, Production Coordinator (VFX), Video Game FX Artist, and 3D Animator, among others.

University of Utah is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU). Founded in 1850, The U is Utah’s public flagship institution. This top-tier research institution serves around 34,425 students enrolled in more than 200 programs housed across 17 colleges and schools.

5. Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida
Florida State University

The College of Motion Picture Arts at Florida State University (FSU) has several programs that can prepare students for careers in visual effects (VFX). Options include a BFA in Motion Picture Arts with Concentrations in Production and Animation and Digital Arts, and an MFA in Production. Students in all programs can pursue a variety of specialization areas through more than 30 electives. Examples of specialization areas include Visual Effects, Screenwriting, Documentary Filmmaking, and Film Business.

Available VFX-related course examples include History and Practice of Visual Effects and Animation, Visual Effects Cinematography, Compositing I-II, Visual Effects, Motion Picture Sound, Digital Studio Department Leadership, Motion Picture Editing, Production Design Workshop, Lighting, Texturing, and Rendering, and Advanced Workshop in Area of Specialization.

Other program features include the opportunity to complete several major films, including the thesis film, small class sizes of no more than 15 students, and a professional internship. All FSU College of Motion Picture students may participate in the Torchlight Program, which provides instruction in the financing, marketing, and distribution of films.

Graduates of the Motion Picture Arts Program at Florida State University are prepared to pursue positions in the film, television, and animation industries. Potential job titles include Visual Effects Artist, Effects Animator, Visual Effects Coordinator/Producer, CG Lighter, Rigger, Animator, Animation Supervisor, Modeler, Animatics Supervisor, and Storyboard Artist, among others.

Florida State University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). Founded in 1851, FSU serves nearly 44,000 students enrolled in around 276 degree programs at all levels. One of the largest and oldest universities in Florida, FSU houses 16 colleges and schools at campuses across the state.

6. Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana
Purdue University

Purdue University (Purdue) is home to Purdue Polytechnic Institute—one of the 10 academic colleges at the university. Purdue Polytechnic houses the Department of Computer Graphics Technology (CGT) which has several pathways to study visual effects (VFX). Options include the BS, MS, and accelerated 5-Year BS/MS in CGT. The undergraduate program offers a major in Animation and Visual Effects.

Visual Effects at Purdue is a STEM-based discipline, so all students will take courses such as Physics, Calculus, and Trigonometry. Programs also explore the business side of the film and entertainment business, so students will take marketing, management, business writing, and entrepreneurship courses.

Other course examples across programs include Visual Effects Introduction, Visual Effects: Particles And Procedural Effects, Visual Effects – Pyrotechnics And Destruction Effects, The History And technique Of Visual Effects in Film, 3D Modeling, Rendering, and Texturing, Digital Lighting, Audio, Computer Graphics, Compositing, Motion, Character Rigging, and Lighting.

Students will have opportunities to create visual effects and animations using industry-standard programs such as Autodesk Maya. Production facilities include the Visual Effects Lab, IDEA Lab, High Performance Computer Graphics Laboratory, Heavilon Lab, Games Innovation Laboratory, and the Digital Enterprise Center.

Other CGT features include training on the LightCraft Previzion System (the same visual effects system used in Hollywood productions), real-world projects with real clients, access to  innovative tools for animation and visual effects compositing, professors who are leading experts in their respective fields, and networking opportunities through Purdue’s ACM SIGGRAPH (Association of Computing Machinery's Special Interest Group on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques) chapter—the first student chapter of the professional computer graphics organization.

Graduates of the CGT Programs at Purdue Polytechnic Institute are routinely hired at Walt Disney, DreamWorks, and Google, among others.  

Purdue University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). Established in 1869, the school serves nearly 50,000 students, with around 6,000 enrolled in Purdue Polytechnic Institute. Purdue offers more than 400 programs in 10 colleges and schools. Purdue Polytechnic Institute was founded in 1964 as Purdue University’s School of Technology. The Institute houses seven departments and schools offering dozens of technology-centered programs.

7. University of Central Florida, Orlando, Florida
University of Central Florida

The College of Arts and Humanities at University of Central Florida (UCF) houses the School of Visual Arts & Design (SVAD), which has an MFA Program with an Animation & Visual Effects Tracks. Students in this three-year program have the opportunity to create their own visual effects thesis. The thesis project for the MFA-Animation & Visual Effects Track involves creating innovative applications of Animation & Visual Effects to serve artistic, entertainment, commercial, and/or educational needs.

Course examples for the program include Script and Story Development for Animation and Visual Effects, Visual Development for Animation and Visual Effects, Editing for Animation and Visual Effects, Visual Effects for Animation and Live Action, Directing for Animation and Visual Effects, Technical Problem Solving for Animation and Visual Effects, Media and Music for Animation and Visual Effects, Animation and Visual Effects Production I-IV, and The History of Animation and Visual Effects.

Graduates of the UCF SVAD Animation & Visual Effects MFA Program work at major studios and organizations such as Walt Disney Animation Studios, NASA, PIXAR, Weta Digital, Framestore, Lightbox, Titmouse, Lockheed Martin, Netflix, Reel FX, the U.S. Navy, Nickelodeon Animation, Blur, Epic Games, Electronic Arts (EA), Riot Games, DISTI, and Blizzard Entertainment.

University of Central Florida is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). Founded in 1963, UCF opened its doors in 1968 as Florida Technological University. When it began, the school had less than 2,000 students. Today, UCF serves more than 70,000 students, making it the largest university by enrollment in the State of Florida, and one of the nation’s largest universities. Program offerings include 106 bachelor’s degrees, 95 master’s degrees, 31 research doctorates, three professional doctorates, and three specialist degrees.

8. Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Georgia
Georgia Institute of Technology

Georgia Institute of Technology (GeorgiaTech) has several pathways to study visual and special effects. The College of Computing and the School of Literature, Media, and Communication (LMC) in GeorgiaTech’s Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts offer a BS in Computational Media (BSCM), MS and PhD degrees in Digital Media, and a Minor in Computing & Media.

The Computational Media Program at GeorgiaTech launched in 2004 with just one student. Today, the program serves more than 300 students, making it one of the school’s fastest growing programs. The Computing & Media Minor requires 19 credit hours of study, with elective course options such as Digital Video Special Effects, Video Game Design and Programming, and Information Visualization. Examples of required courses include Computer Graphics, Objects and Design, and Computer Organization and Programming.

Students have the option to add a Film Studies Minor (offered in the School of LMC), which allows students to take production courses as part of elective requirements. Minor course options include Video Production, Experimental Film, Film and/as Technology, Advanced Video Production, and Cinema and Digital Culture.

GeorgiaTech School of LMC students have access to post-production labs outfitted with Adobe Creative Cloud Suite and DaVinci Resolve software. The School of LMC is also home to LMCFilms, a film and video equipment rental house that provides a range of industry-standard equipment for students and researchers working in the entertainment industry.

Georgia Institute of Technology graduates go on to establish successful careers in Visual and Special Effects, Film Production, Interactive Design and Game Simulation, 3D Modeling, and Animation, among others.

Georgia Institute of Technology is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). Founded in 1885, the school opened with just 129 students and one degree program—a BS in Mechanical Engineering. Today, GeorgiaTech serves nearly 40,000 students enrolled in more than 180 degree programs and minors in six distinct colleges and 28 schools.

9. University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida
University of Florida

The University of Florida (UF) houses the College of the Arts, home to the Digital Worlds Institute. Founded in 2001, the Institute is a partnership between seven UF colleges that focuses on advanced media systems by combining engineering, science, communications, and art.

The Digital Worlds Institute at University of Florida offers two pathways to study visual effects (VFX). Options include a BA in Digital Arts & Sciences (BADAS) and a DAS Minor.

BADAS students benefit from the project-based learning environment which allows them to gain hands-on experience and team-building skills. Electives are offered in three areas: Animation, Game Design, and Experience Design & Production. Students may choose coursework in one or more of these areas based on their interests and goals. Students may take electives outside of the BADAS Program as well. Examples include Advanced Film and Video Production, History of Film Part I and II, Lighting and Sound, Advanced Video Studio, Directing, and Interdisciplinary Studio. The remaining courses for the program are in the BADAS cores and general education (30%).

The Experience Design and Production Area covers the entire process of pre-production, production, and post-production, as well as studio production and motion design. The Animation Area covers the 15 Principles of Animation and teaches industry-standard techniques for film, interactive media, and video games. Game Design explores the technical skills involved in game content creation  and system development, as well as the core principles of the game design production process: planning, execution, scope, testing, and iteration.

All UF BADAS students must complete a senior project and a portfolio. Independent study, the internship, and the production practicum are optional.

Graduates of the Digital Worlds Institute at University of Florida have been hired at major studios and companies such as DreamWorks Animation and Microsoft. Many UF alumni have also gone on to launch their own start-ups and freelance businesses.

University of Florida is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). Founded in 1858 as Gainesville Academy, the school opened with just a few students. Today, University of Florida serves nearly 58,000 students enrolled in more than 300 undergraduate and graduate programs in 14 colleges and schools.

10. University of Colorado-Denver, Denver, Colorado
University of Colorado Denver

The College of Arts & Media (CAM) at University of Colorado Denver (CU Denver) houses the school’s Film and Television, Media Forensics, Music, and Visual Arts Programs. Within CAM is the Department of Visual Arts (VA) and the Digital Animation Center (DAC). Together, the VA and DAC offer a BFA in Visual Arts with an Emphasis in 3D Graphics and Animation.

This 120 credit hour program provides coursework and training that prepares students to work in film, animation, and visual effects. The program also covers 3D graphics and animation for science and medicine. Course examples for the program include Character FX, Intro to Film, Surface Modeling, Surface and Lighting, Digital Cinematography, Production I-III, Character Creation, DAC: Dynamic Simulation, 3D Design, Animation and Rigging, and DAC Modeling I-II.

Through electives, students can develop additional skills in VFX. Course examples include Editing and Post-Production Techniques, Lighting, Grip, and Sound, Sound for Film and TV, and Production I-II. Note CAM also offers a Film & Television Emphasis leading to a BFA, as well as a Film & Television Production Minor. Both programs offer opportunities to develop film production and post-production skills.

In the junior year of the CAM Visual Arts BFA Program, students will begin an 18-month Capstone experience—the Senior Film. In collaboration with departments across CAM, Visual Arts students will work in all areas to create this final project. They will create sound, visual and special effects, storylines, soundtracks, motion graphics, and more. Students may also participate in the internship program during the final years of the BFA program.

Graduates of the CU Denver BFA in Visual Arts-3D Graphics and Animation have produced films that have been screened in more than 300 film festivals in 22 countries. Graduates have also won more than 75 Best Animated Short awards in non-student categories.

Graduates of the University of Colorado Denver Visual Arts Programs are employed at major studios such as Pixar, Sony, and LucasArts, among others.

University of Colorado Denver is accredited by Higher Learning Commission (HLC). The school began in 1912 as an extension of the University of Colorado Boulder and became CU Denver in 1973, making it an independent campus. Organized into eight colleges and schools, CU Denver serves 15,000 students enrolled in more than 110 academic degrees.